Why did you first start pole dancing? Why do you love it? Why do you continue to pole dance?
It’s easy to lose sight of the why as we progress. But every once in a while, you need to look around you and take stock of what you are continuing to get out of it. Is it still enriching your life? Or is it frustrating you? If pole has become stressful, or less enjoyable, in some way, think carefully about what has changed. Sometimes all you need is to tweak your outlook to enjoy it as much as you once did.
The very reason why pole is so addictive—the rush of nailing a new trick—can be a reason why we become frustrated. We all have our nemesis trick: the one that we just can’t seem to get, no matter how hard we try. Maybe it’s one that never quite feels right, one that makes you a little bit nervous because it doesn’t feel as secure as you think it could. Or maybe it’s the trick that you’ve been working to master for ages, but every time you try, it seems that you either don’t have the strength, or your body gets abducted by aliens and refuses to listen to you and engage where it should.
Here’s truth #1: Not every trick is appropriate, or easy, for every body.
I’m not talking about a lack of technique or strength. I am talking about physical limitations that your body imposes on YOU. I have a damaged right rotator cuff from years of improperly doing certain tricks. Because of that, twisted grip handsprings, and reverse grabs, are tricks that make my shoulder freak out. Every body is built differently. To avoid injury and damage, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
When you experience an injury: think of what you were doing when you hurt yourself. Were you really ready (mentally and physically) to work on that trick? If so, was it is improper engagement or alignment that caused the damage? Could it have been avoided? If you heal, and work on the same trick in the same way, will an injury recur?
We’re doing serious physical work here people! Holding up your own body weight, sometimes upside down? Wrapping a breakable human form around an unyielding tube of metal? Suffering pole burn and severe discomfort? Don’t forget for a second what a difficult sport you’ve gotten yourself into. Be gracious with yourself: this is not, by any means, easy. There’s a reason why it takes so much time to achieve a high level of advanced pole dancing.
Some tricks will come more quickly to some and not to others. If you have long legs, then tricks that are very core intense, and are affected by weight and muscle distribution, will be more difficult that someone built the other way around. If you have a very short torso, then tricks that require you to twist around the pole or arch in front of it (like a yogini, or ballerina) are going to be difficult because you simply have less space on your body to use as a point of contact. Part of getting better is learning which tricks work for you, and which ones look best on you.
Look at the bodies of some of the top pole dancers: generally, they are either built like an upside down triangle, with broad shoulders, or they are petite. Some are both. If you have your weight focused on the top half of your body, you will be lifting less weight in your legs. If you are small, your muscles don’t have to work as hard because there is less weight, and moving your limbs from point A to point B is a shorter line than for someone a foot taller.
Be kind to your body. With enough time and effort, you can gain enough flexibility and strength to achieve almost anything—but it may mean fighting the physiology you have, and may require hours and hours of time invested.
That brings us to truth #2: You need to evaluate how serious you are going to be about pole dancing.
I am fortunate enough to have a ridiculous number of world-class pole dancers with which to train, and take classes with. But I’ll tell you what: not a single one of them has a full time, 9-5 job. Because you know what? If you are at the top of your game, you are a not just a world-class pole dancer. You are a world-class athlete. You are carefully monitoring what goes into your body. You are training every day—and not just in pole, but strengthening and conditioning. The amount of time that some of these people spend in one day to further their craft, is equal to the time that some people spend in two weeks.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and Outliers, has stated that the difference between superstars in any field, and the average Joe, can be boiled down to simply: 10,000 hours of practice. He states that on average, every successful musician, athlete, or entrepreneur has spent 3 hours a day, for 10 years, at their specialty. Obviously, to spend that much time at anything implies a great deal of guts, determination, and work ethic; but it also gives us a benchmark: according to Gladwell, it generally takes that much time to gain true expertise.
How many years have you been pole dancing? How many months? How many hours can you say that you have spent? How long have you been a physically active human being? I’ve never gone to the gym, or had any experience with any dance activity until I started poling in 2007. I know that for me, to catch up to someone who is world-class pole dancing caliber, will require a huge investment of time and resources. For me to even be a nationally known and recognized pole dancer, or place in a national competition, would be difficult.
Once you remove “being good enough to be famous” from the motivation equation, what is left?
Which brings us to truth #3: There is always going to be someone who started later than you did, who can do the trick you can’t.
It’s hard not to get discouraged when you see a less experienced dancer come up in the ranks and quickly surpass your abilities. It’s tough when it seems like everyone you’re friends with, or everyone in your class, is better or learning faster than you are. You may be an incredibly secure, self-confident person in every day life or even nearly all the time…but when faced with what everyone else is doing, or even what just one person is doing, you may find that you are doubting yourself or your abilities. It could mean feeling like you need to keep up with everyone else, or be left behind.
The problem for many of us? Is that there are only 24 hours in a day. And only so many dollars in our bank account. Sure, if we were all built of money, without work or families or school, we may be able to achieve more. It can get stressful trying to juggle everything you need to do, with the things that you want to do—including pole. For some of us, the way we are built means that it would take hours, upon hours, of intensive work to achieve a split. How much time are you willing to spend? How important is a split to you? What else could you rather do with your time? Once progress toward a goal becomes a chore, rather than an incentive, you should re-evaluate.
It also helps to remember that progress isn’t always linear or obvious to you. Just like your hair getting longer may only be apparent to someone who hasn’t seen you in months, sometimes the work you do in class to better yourself may seem frustratingly slow. But just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And whether or not you feel it, or had a crap practice, the time that you spent will help you become better than you were yesterday.
You are only ever competing against yourself. You can’t judge yourself against any other person. Your body is not theirs; your experiences are not theirs. Who knows how much time they are spending in class, or how much background in movement that they may have? What if their body is a far more efficient builder of muscle than yours is? What if they are just innately coordinated or they have a special ability to understand spatial relationships? What if every experience in their life to this point has been to prepare them for an illustrious career in pole dancing??
We are all different people. The body you have, the life you have, is for you to what you can. Not to be better than the person sitting next to you. And if you find that someone is being competitive with you, or insecure around you, realize that is the way that they have chosen to use their energy. It doesn’t have to be the way that you use yours. Channel your insecurity into positivity: see the beauty in someone else. I am stunned when I watch my friends move: they are breathtaking, amazing, and strong. I am inspired by them. It fuels my desire to be a better me.
If you watch ten people do a basic fireman spin, they will all do it with different nuances: one may hold their head tilted, one may keep a leg straight, one may throw in a head toss. Pole dancing is not a checklist of tricks; it is about finding a way to express yourself, and your body. Whether you are on the ground, or on the pole, or on a lap dance chair, this is about connecting to a song or a movement in your own way. To judge what makes you special or unique is to take away from what you are as an individual, flaws and abilities and all. You do your best with the imperfect body that you have. That is all that you can do, and all you can ask of yourself.
Tomorrow’s post: Thursday tunes